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Arsaces I (c. 247 - 211 B.C.)

ΑΡΣΑΚΗΣ

Arsaces I was the first king of the Parthians. (See the early history of Parthia.) Arrian reported Arsaces I was descended from Arsaces, son of Phriapites, and that his brother was Tiridates.1 Confusion exists among historians as to whether Arsaces I or his brother Tiridates ruled until 211 B.C., but it is generally accepted today that Arsaces I was the king and Arian's references to Tiridates should be attributed to Arsaces. See the genealogy chart.

Arsaces I overthrew Andragoras, the Seleucid governor of Parthia2 and was crowned in 247 B.C. in Asaak (Arshaak), the capital city of Astauene.3 Arsaces I had to deal with attempts by Antiochus III to recapture lost Seleucid territories, but evidently succeeded in consolidating control of Parthia, Hyrcania, Herat and Astauene (and possibly Nisaia). Early in his reign of 36 years he invaded and conquered Hyrcania4 and then, on the death of the elder King Diodotus in Bactria, formed and alliance with Diodotus II. About 228 B.C., Seleucus II Calinicus (247-226 B.C.) gathered an army in Babylon with which he marched east to reclaim the lost satrapies. Arsaces I retreated before him and eventually sought refuge among the Sakae, but circa 227 B.C. he returned victorious to Parthia when other troubles in Syria diverted Seleucus II. Following his death, Seleucus II was succeeded by his elder son Seleucus III Soter who ruled only three years until his murder, to be succeeded in turn by his younger brother Antiochus III (the Great) in 223 B.C. While Antiochus III was concerned with rebellion by two of his generals, the brothers Molon and Alexander, Arsaces  continued to consolidate his position, increase his army, build forts and establish new cities such as Apaortenon, an almost impregnable position.5

Click here to view the inscriptions on this king's coins.

____________________
Notes:
1. Arrian, Frg. Hist., 1 (quoted in Photius 58) and 156.
2. Justin, xli, 4.
3. Isidore of Charax, Stations, 11.
4. But Justin, xli 4. 8, believed it was Tiridates
5. Justin xli, 5. 1-4. Debevoise (Political History, 15, n. 62) cites the classical and modern disagreements on its location and name

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Coins in the name of Arsaces attributed to Arsaces I

The attributions and cataloging of Parthian coins used throughout this web site follow David Sellwood's An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia (1980, 2nd edition) for consistency. The few exceptions to this policy are explained here.

Click on coin images to enlarge:

Sellwood Type 1

PDC 10906 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 3.99g 12h (PDC 10906)
Mint: Nisa?
Obv: beardless head right, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; circular border of pellets; two-line Greek inscription = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ / ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΟΣ
Photo by Numismatik Lanz München
- Sellwood 1.1 [11 in db]
- Lanz 102, lot 301 (this coin)
- Abgarians & Sellwood, NC 1971, "A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms", p.104 and pl. 20, 1/1 (same obv die)
- Peus 371 (2002), lot 233 (this coin)
- Peus 384 (1 Nov 2005), lot 361 (this coin)
- Shore 1
PDC 39487 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Hemidrachm 1.90g (PDC 39487)
Mint: Nisa?
Obv: beardless head right, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; circular border of pellets; two-line Greek inscription = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΟΣ
Previous collection: Robert Gonnella
Photo by Dr. Busso Peus Nachf.
- Sellwood 1.1 variant (hemidrachm) [2 in db]
- Peus 388 (1 Nov 2006), lot 277 (this coin)
- Peus 323 (1-4 Nov 1988), lot 902 (this coin)
- Sammlung Gonnella: Münzen Der Arsakiden (2008), 1 (this coin)
- Shore not listed

Sellwood Type 2

PDC 23626 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.18g (PDC 23626)
Mint: Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; circular border of pellets; two-line Greek inscription = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ / ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΟΣ
Note: Extremely rare, fewer than 10 recorded specimens
Photo by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 2.1 [6 in db]
- Shore not listed

Sellwood Type 3

Special attention must be paid to the monogram M variant of type 3. Sigmund Galle ("Une Drachme inconnue d'Arsace Ier et la problème des monogrammes," Iranica Antiqua, 1982, vol. 17, p. 175-180) has pointed out a possible discrepancy in Sellwood's interpretation of the monograms as a mintmark of Mithradatkart-Nisa. He notes that archaeological exploration has dated the city's oldest remains to the late third or second century B.C., creating a strong likelihood that it was named for Mithradates I (c. 171 - 138 B.C.), the only king by that name in that era. If true, he reasons, Mithradatkart could not have functioned as a mint for Arsaces I.

Aramaic inscriptionThe Sellwood type 3 drachms have an Aramaic inscription which has not yet been translated satisfactorily. Shown here is a computer enhanced picture of the inscription from the PDC 10907 coin which has a particularly clear version. In Num Chron 1971, 7/11, p. 113, Sellwood offered a possible interpretation of krny (the karen), building on the suggestion by A. D. H. Bivar that karen was a Greek military rank equivalent to general used in Xenophon's time circa 400 B.C.  (Num Chron 1961, 123, n. 5). We later find Karen as one name among seven of the most powerful families in Parthia, but their date of rise to power is uncertain. Sellwood offered a variant of this inscription I have not yet seen: aramaic_sellwood1971-2.gif (91x30 -- 1142 bytes)
PDC 10907 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.04g 11h (PDC 10907)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; monogram ΜΤ below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, single-line Aramaic inscription (LA3ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = ΑΡΣΑΚ[ΟΥ]
Photo by Numismatik Lanz München
- Sellwood 3.1 [17 in db]
- Lanz 102, lot 302 (this coin)
- Sellwood 1971, A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms, NC p.104 and pl.23, 3/2 (this coin)
- Shore 2
PDC 10908 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.09g 12h (PDC 10908)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; monogram Μ below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, single-line Aramaic inscription (LA3ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Photo by Numismatik Lanz München
- Sellwood 3.1 variant (rev. monogram Μ) [2 in db]
- Lanz 102, lot 303 (this coin)
- Gorny & Mosch 129, lot 193 (this coin)
- Sellwood, A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms, NC 1971, not listed (cf. p.104, Type 3)
- Shore 2 variant (monogram)
PDC 11975 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 3.83g (PDC 11975)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; monogram ΜΤ below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, single-line Aramaic inscription (LA3ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from inside = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Photo by Kirk Davis
- Sellwood 3.1 variant (ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ read from inside) [1 in db]
- Kirk Davis Catalog 34 (Spring 2001), lot 76 (this coin)
- Abgarians & Sellwood, NC 1971, "A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms", Type 3, - (obv. 3/1, rev. unlisted)
- Shore 2 variant (ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ read from inside)
- Triton X (9-10 Jan 2007), lot 428
PDC 31350 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.00g (PDC 31350)
Mint?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; no monogram below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, single-line Aramaic inscription (LA3ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside
Photo by Freeman & Sear
- Sellwood 3.2 [3 in db]
- Freeman & Sear Mail Bid 12 (28 Oct 2005), lot 228 (this coin)
- Gorny & Mosch Auktion 130, lot 1342 (this coin)
- Harlan J. Berk 20th CICF Auction (23 Mar 1995), lot 56 (this coin)
PDC 42894 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AE Dichalkous 3.20g 12h (PDC 42894)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: bow in case; to right, single-word Greek inscription(?) = [ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ]
Photo by Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 3 type variant (bronze, bow case reverse) [2 in db]
- CNG 75 (23 May 2007), lot 577 (this coin)
- Abgarians & Sellwood, NC 1971, "A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms", pl. 20, 3/5 and 3/6 (same obv die)
- BMC Parthia not listed
- Lanz 102 (28 May 2001), lot 306 (same obv. die)
- Mitchiner ACW not listed
- Petrowicz not listed
- Shore not listed
PDC 59615 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AE Dichalkous 3.88g 12h (PDC 59615)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: bow in case; to left, monogram ΜΤ, to right, single-word Greek inscription read from outside
Previous collection: Todd A. Ballen
Photo by Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 3 type variant (bronze, bow case reverse, monogram ΜΤ) [1 in db]
- Triton XIII (5 Jan 2010), lot 506 (this coin)
- Shore not listed

Sellwood Type 4

Aramaic inscriptionThe Sellwood type 4 drachms have an Aramaic inscription which has not yet been translated satisfactorily. Shown here is a computer enhanced picture of the inscription from the PDC 6190 coin in the Paris cabinet.  Sellwood did not include this inscription, but did offer an additional type 4 inscription I have not yet seen: aramaic_sellwood1971-3.gif (73x30 -- 1106 bytes)
PDC 6190 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.11g (PDC 6190)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; monogram ΜΤ below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, Aramaic inscription (LA4ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = [Α]ΡΣΑΚΟ[Υ]
Current collection: Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, nc 1
Photo by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 4.1 [12 in db]
- Shore not listed
PDC 21514 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.27g (PDC 21514)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated left on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; no monogram below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, single-line Aramaic inscription (LA3ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Previous collection: Bellaria
Photo by Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 4.1 obv/S3.2 rev (mule) [3 in db]
- Triton VII (12 Jan 2004), lot 389 (this coin)
- Abgarians & Sellwood, NC 1971, "A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms", cf. Type 4, 4/7 (same obverse die)
- Alram 391 (same obverse die)
- Leu 77 (11-12 May 2000), lot 370 (this coin)
- Mitchiner ACW cf. 453 (same obverse die)
- Shore not listed
PDC 42569 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 3.87g 17mm (PDC 42569)
Mint: Mithradatkart-Nisa?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; monogram ΜΤ below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, Aramaic inscription (variant LA4ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Photo by Pars Coins
- Sellwood 4.1 variant (Aramaic legend) [1 in db]
- Shore not listed
PDC 10910 Arsaces I (247-211 B.C.)
AR Drachm 4.04g 12h (PDC 10910)
Mint?
Obv: beardless head left, wearing bashlyk; circular border of pellets
Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on backless throne, holding bow in left hand; no monogram below seat; circular border of pellets; below bow, Aramaic inscription (LA4ii); behind archer, single-word Greek inscription read from outside = ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Photo by Numismatik Lanz München
- Sellwood 4.1 variant (no rev monogram) [4 in db]
- Lanz 102, lot 305 (this coin)
- Abgarians & Sellwood, NC 1971, "A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms", Hoard p.105 and pl. 20, 4/4 (die match)
- CNG Online Coin Shop (Jul 2001), item 7436 (this coin)
- Shore not listed
- Triton XIII (5 Jan 2010), lot 504 (this coin)
 

This page last updated 03 Jun 2010

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